Network Working Group H. Alvestrand
Request for Comments: 3935 Cisco Systems
BCP: 95 October 2004
Category: Best Current Practice
A Mission Statement for the IETF
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).
This memo gives a mission statement for the IETF, tries to define the
terms used in the statement sufficiently to make the mission
statement understandable and useful, argues why the IETF needs a
mission statement, and tries to capture some of the debate that led
to this point.
1. Mission Statement
The goal of the IETF is to make the Internet work better.
The mission of the IETF is to produce high quality, relevant
technical and engineering documents that influence the way people
design, use, and manage the Internet in such a way as to make the
Internet work better. These documents include protocol standards,
best current practices, and informational documents of various kinds.
The IETF will pursue this mission in adherence to the following
Open process - any interested person can participate in the work,
know what is being decided, and make his or her voice heard on the
issue. Part of this principle is our commitment to making our
documents, our WG mailing lists, our attendance lists, and our
meeting minutes publicly available on the Internet.
Technical competence - the issues on which the IETF produces its
documents are issues where the IETF has the competence needed to
speak to them, and that the IETF is willing to listen to
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technically competent input from any source. Technical competence
also means that we expect IETF output to be designed to sound
network engineering principles - this is also often referred to as
Volunteer Core - our participants and our leadership are people who
come to the IETF because they want to do work that furthers the
IETF's mission of "making the Internet work better".
Rough consensus and running code - We make standards based on the
combined engineering judgement of our participants and our real-
world experience in implementing and deploying our specifications.
Protocol ownership - when the IETF takes ownership of a protocol or
function, it accepts the responsibility for all aspects of the
protocol, even though some aspects may rarely or never be seen on
the Internet. Conversely, when the IETF is not responsible for a
protocol or function, it does not attempt to exert control over
it, even though it may at times touch or affect the Internet.
2. Definition of Terms
Mission: What an organization sets out to do. This is in contrast to
its goal (which is what it hopes to achieve by fulfilling its
mission), and to its activities (which is what specific actions it
takes to achieve its mission).
The Internet: A large, heterogeneous collection of interconnected
systems that can be used for communication of many different types
between any interested parties connected to it. The term includes
both the "core Internet" (ISP networks) and "edge Internet"
(corporate and private networks, often connected via firewalls,
NAT boxes, application layer gateways and similar devices). The
Internet is a truly global network, reaching into just about every
country in the world.
The IETF community wants the Internet to succeed because we
believe that the existence of the Internet, and its influence on
economics, communication, and education, will help us to build a
better human society.
Standard: As used here, the term describes a specification of a
protocol, system behaviour or procedure that has a unique
identifier, and where the IETF has agreed that "if you want to do
this thing, this is the description of how to do it". It does not
imply any attempt by the IETF to mandate its use, or any attempt
to police its usage - only that "if you say that you are doing
this according to this standard, do it this way". The benefit of
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